The Problem of Non-Branding
In our previous article in this series, we looked at the problem of ‘non-branding’ for B2B companies. We looked at the various reasons why so many companies (and the people that make up the company) are skeptical of branding, think that it’s just not that important, and therefore end up not really branding which results in what we at Resound call a ‘non-brand’.
In our decade-plus of working with B2B companies to build authentic, lasting brands, we’ve learned a few things about why companies fall into this ‘non-branding’ trap. There are really four main causes for non-branding:
- The company believes it has no purpose.
- The company believes it is inhuman, not made up of people.
- The company believes it is not unique.
- The company believes it has no story to tell.
None of these beliefs line up with reality. They’re false and untrue. But they can be deeply held and hard to change our perspectives on. Last time we unpacked the first two of these causes. You can check those out in Part 1 of this series. But now we’re going to tackle the other two causes of non-branding.
3. Your Company Is Truly Unique
Because a unique collection of people make up your B2B company, your company actually is unique. The particular services or products you provide might not be unique, or the markets you sell to might not be unique. But because people are unique and act in unique ways, the way your business does what it does will inevitably be different from the way another business would do it.
We’ve talked to prospective clients before who have said to us, flat out, “There is really nothing interesting about us. We’re just like everybody else.”
What a lie! Our clients may believe that lie, but it is still a lie. No two people are the same: even the two most average, normal, typical, conventional people you can imagine are not duplicates of one another. Two twins who share the same genes are still very different people. So, no two companies of people are the same.
A company might feel the same as everybody else, of course. It might not look or sound unique. If the organization hasn’t put much thought or energy into branding, it may not be articulating or presenting its unique identity in a unique way. Look around and you’ll see plenty of bland and boring brands.
Sometimes bland branding (call it, ‘blanding’) results from neglect or a holdover from the past. Maybe the organization started with a brand expression that was quick and easy at one point in time, like naming themselves after the nearest street, river, mountain, or landscape, and that was good enough because there were more pressing problems to deal with.
Other brands are bland by choice: they’re self-conscious about seeming unique in any way. They’ve chosen the most unobtrusive, “just like the other guy” look-and-feel possible, maybe because they actually feel a little inferior to the “other guy”.
Other brands just don’t think they need it. They’re satisfied with the personal referral business they’ve built and the portfolio of recurring revenue they have and see no need to change things.
Still, hiding under that bland and boring brand is always going to be different people, with a different way of handling things than the company down the street.
We’re not saying it is necessarily wrong to have a bland and boring brand if the company has clear reasons for doing that. Sometimes, when it is an intentional choice, it can be the most authentic and best-fitting representation of the company. Most of the time, though, blanding is a tragic waste. There is so much more to the company than they are giving themselves credit for! Companies that endure over time, which build referral networks and loyal customers, do so precisely because they are different and people recognize it. So, why hide it?
4. Your Company Has a Remarkable Story
You have a purpose because there is some reason you are in business. Your business cares about people because that’s what makes you a company and keeps you going. Your business is unique, because, even if nothing else, the people and relationships in it are unique. So, if you have all of those ingredients, you have a brand story…and dare I say it – a remarkable story.
Your brand’s story is what connects everything. It is the context of every relationship and the narrative behind every conversation or experience or interaction that happens in the course of your business.
As an individual, when someone is getting to know you, they want to know your story: where are you from? What do you do? Who is in your family? Why are you here? Those are questions we as humans want answered, so we can try to imagine the story of the person we are talking to. Knowing someone’s story better makes it easier to trust them.
The same is true of a company’s story. Where is it from? How did it begin, and why? Who are the people on the team? Whom do they serve, and what problems do they solve? What do they do together and why? Why is the business even here at all?
Just like it is hard to build a relationship with an individual who will only tell you the bare minimum of their story, it is hard to build a relationship of trust with a company that doesn’t communicate anything about itself but a name, address, a few statistics, and some sales points.
An Imaginative Example
Imagine you’ve just met somebody at an event, and this is the conversation you have:
Bob: Hi, I’m Bob.
You: Hi Bob, nice to meet you. What do you do?
You: Oh, nice. Where at?
Bob: An office.
You: Oh, sure. Do you have any . . . uh . . . hobbies?
You: Oh. So, where are you from?
Bob: An office.
You: Yeah . . . can you tell me anything about yourself?
Bob: Yes, I’m Bob.
Just like nobody wants to start a relationship with Bob (let alone put much trust in Bob), nobody wants to start a relationship with a company that has nothing to say for itself. As humans, if we are going to trust the company to take care of us then we are going to need to know its story.
The good news is that every organization has that story. It isn’t a made-up story, or a clever tale spun to impress a certain “demographic group.” It is an honest and authentic story about the people and purpose that make you do what you do every day.
What motivates you at a deeper level to take care of these people and customers? Why do you stay in the business? Why have you done that for 10, 20, even 50 years? There’s a story behind that. Come on. Let’s go tell that brand story!
What’s Truth Got To Do With It?
Opposition to “branding” often results when someone has seen too many examples of what we will call Accidental, Superficial, or Arbitrary branding. Those companies which consciously avoid talk of “branding” are often the ones most committed to authenticity: they fear “branding” would amount to wearing a false face or a ridiculous costume or would force them to change their identity to fit a mold.
That non-brander’s desire for authenticity is admirable, and companies that share with us that desire are in many ways closer to what we consider true branding than those which have “branded” by substituting something surface-level or temporary in place of investigating their essential identity. The skepticism that there really is an essential “core” to every company, a “true” identity, results from seeing a lot of falsehood.
True branding has to do with knowing the truth. When you can do that, you can uncover a unique story about your company’s people, driven by its purpose, to create lasting customer relationships.
If this is you and you want help, we have a plethora of resources for you in your branding journey. From articles to free tools, videos, and even a self-assessment for your brand – we’ve got you covered. And if you’re looking for help in a more direct way, we offer professional branding services to help B2B companies like yours unlock your authentic brand and tell your story to the world.